Thought Leader Interview with Brad Harris of Hanzo: eDiscovery Trends and Best Practices

Time for another thought leader interview on eDiscovery Today!  My latest interview is with a legal technology veteran who is known for working with technology pioneers in SaaS-based discovery solutions, Brad Harris of Hanzo!

Brad is the VP of Product and Service Delivery at Hanzo, a technology pioneer in preserving, collecting, reviewing, and exporting dynamic, complex collaboration and web-based data sources. He leads product vision and innovation for the company. Brad has more than 30 years’ experience in the high technology and enterprise software sectors, including assisting Fortune 1000 companies to enhance their e-discovery preparedness through technology and process improvement.

Brad is a frequent author and speaker on data preservation and e-discovery issues and is a member of The Sedona Conference Working Groups 1 and 6.

Doug Austin: Brad, it’s hard to believe we’ve been in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic for nearly a year and a half now. How do you think the push for many of us to work remotely because of the pandemic has impacted eDiscovery?

Brad Harris: It certainly has been an interesting 18 months, hasn’t it? I think that we’ve certainly seen the tremendous growth of collaboration applications, including greater use of Slack and Teams, but also tools like Zoom and other ways that we can now collaborate remotely. We’ve seen both greater use and greater volume of data in those systems. There’s no doubt the adoption of more shadow applications within companies has also occurred because of the rush to get tools into the hands of remote workers. So, whereas before there may have been a measured rollout of new applications, the mantra became “let’s get out there and get our employees productive again.”

I also think a lot of our customers talk about the proliferation of multiple tools. So, first and foremost, the rapid adoption of these tools is changing how we create, retain and transmit information.  Not only does this mean more instant messaging “chat” type environments, but also more integration of tools and processes. Slack, as an example, has recently added new “huddle” and “clips” features to encourage users to add audio and now video to their communications.

The variety of that data also continues to grow. For me, as an eDiscovery professional, it’s about knowing what applications exist, then learning about how the organization is using them. We quickly recognize that our traditional ediscovery playbooks that were based on more conventional ESI sources like office documents and email need upgrading to address these new sources of ESI.

Doug Austin: I couldn’t agree more.  Regarding the discovery of data from collaboration apps, what do you think we’re not talking about enough that legal professionals need to know?

Brad Harris: In addition to the data being different, we’re also dealing with entirely larger data volumes.  When our customers have a matter, it’s not uncommon for them to create and add five or ten custodians. These custodians may result in literally thousands of channels of information in Slack and hundreds of thousands of messages. So, it’s an absolutely different scale. There’s an extra level of complexity incumbent in this data when an application like Salesforce becomes a “Slack-first application,” including significant efficiencies built into workflows now that our teams no longer have to go out and log into 20 different applications because they already all have integrations built directly into Slack.  Furthermore, modern applications like Jira, Confluence and even Zoom are all building collaboration into their DNA. As a result, we need to think much more broadly when we think about where relevant business communications reside.

Doug Austin: I imagine that Hanzo is a company that uses both Jira and Confluence for managing your own products, as well as understanding how other companies have to manage them as well. 

Brad Harris: Very much so. It’s amazing how efficient these tools can be at fostering collaboration, and creating digital artifacts that may very well be the next ediscovery challenge.

Doug Austin: Recently, we both covered the Sandoz v. United Therapeutics case (Brad covered it here, Doug covered it here) involving an order to produce context-related cell phone messages. Why did you decide to cover that case, and what do you think is significant about it?

Brad Harris: I love that case. It highlights the importance of context. While this case dealt with text messages, it is crucial for any chat-based application to produce the surrounding messages that can deliver context. Imagine a Slack conversation where all you saw were the messages from just the custodian. You would have no idea what the overall discussion was about or which comment the custodian responded to. Context is king when it comes to collaboration.

This case was interesting in that the court had to analyze whether it was proportional to go back and ask the parties to produce again. I think they got it right in requiring a new production. Without that context, individual messages or posts are not helpful. So, as we’re approaching these new modern applications, we should think about that more – how you capture the context of the conversation, not just what one particular custodian has posted to a message.

Doug Austin: Absolutely. And those conversations are what really determine what’s relevant and not relevant. It’s the whole conversation, not just snippets of it, for sure.

Brad Harris: If you think about it from a search perspective, it’s not just searching for a keyword in a particular message that might be over a set of conversations. Proximity is different, and it’s not within the four corners of a document as we used to describe it. Instead, we find relevance and meaning via the entire life of the conversation.  When we do early case assessment, we need to think about search and analysis with this in mind.

We’re just getting started!  Part Two of my interview with Brad Harris will be published on Wednesday.

So, what do you think?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclosure: Hanzo is an Educational Partner and sponsor of eDiscovery Today

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

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